At 5:15 A.M. central time on May 24, I left behind all I had known for the previous 16 months. I left my apartment at the RTS-Jackson campus no longer with a key, and all my stuff packed away either in a storage facility five minutes from campus, in my car, or in a suitcase headed for Sofia, Bulgaria.
I got on a bus, leaving my keys behind to a good friend of mine–one whose skin color, background, and life experiences vary greatly from my own. And I got on the bus headed for Atlanta. By 10 A.M. we were in Birmingham, Alabama–the site of the famous freedom marches in the early 1960s.
I failed to take pictures, ‘cuz I always forget to take pictures. I’m a writer, not a photographer. But I walked the same path those true American heroes did some 50-plus years prior.
I imagined I was there in those moments, trying my best to sympathize with them, to imagine I too was marching for freedom, for true human rights.
By the end of that day I was in Atlanta, the place from where I’d leave the country for two months two days later. On the 23rd I had the pleasure of walking down to see the Martin Luther King Jr. museum, his birthplace, and the church where he served faithfully for so long.
I left for Bulgaria the next afternoon, not knowing what was about to transpire in the U.S.A. while I was away from it.
Tuesday night I returned to the same city where King’s imprint remains so large. I did not return to the landmarks devoted to him. Instead, I made my way to Olympic Centennial Park. And I wrote about it, because my observations, I believe, related in a unique way.
I’m back America! So watch out!
I’m sitting here on a bench in the middle of Olympic Centennial Park. There are probably hundreds of kids playing in the water fountains as we near 8 o’clock. The weather is still hot and humid, though not like it was even an hour ago. Standing above the kids are flags of many of the countries from the 1996 games. Unfortunately, Bulgaria’s seems to be missing. Too bad. When I first saw the flags, I had high hopes for a great photo opportunity (yes I would have taken a photo in this instance).
Though it’s missing, the picture here is beautiful. White, black, brown and (other) kids running around having fun under a monument devoted to diversity–to oneness, based on our common humanity. This is what life is all about–the IDEAL America. More to the point, I’d argue it’s a foretaste of heaven. Childlike exuberance and enthusiasm displayed through peoples of a variety of different backgrounds, skin colors, and languages. God is in the business of redeeming our differences, NOT eliminating them.
I’m in awe. I don’t want to forget this. THIS is why Christ died. His death, resurrection, and ascension produced this. O Praise Him! I see black fathers being fathers. I see beauty. Ultimately, I see Jesus, high and lifted up!
And darn it, Atlanta, even, is winning me over. The new earth which all who believe on Jesus will one day inhabit looks a lot like this: a city where people from different backgrounds celebrate eternal life with childlike exuberance.
I have much more I could say. I’m a long-winded writer normally. But this time I merely wanted to share some brief reflections on a beautiful end to a wild two month journey. I’ll likely write much more in the coming days and weeks about these two months.
For now, though, I’m mostly just hopeful when I see glimpses of beauty in God’s creation.